Man Hit With 2000 Euro Bill for Scamming Lufthansa Lounge Access!

Six months ago the story went ’round about the Chinese man who ate free for a year. He bought a fully flexible ticket, changed his travel date each day, used the airport lounge for food and drink and then refunded his ticket at the end of a year.

Lots of folks thought this was a brilliant hack. Although it certainly wasn’t new.

Ever since September 11th and the requirement that you actually be flying same-day to go past security, there are people that have found it convenient to buy a refundable ticket, meet friends at their gate, and then refund the ticket rather than get a gate pass.

And if doing that, you might as well buy an international first class ticket, to take advantage of any available first class lounge while waiting.

Back when you didn’t need a ticket to go through security there were plenty of folks who lived or worked near the airport who would exercise their club memberships for evening cocktails (at those lounges which offered free drinks). There’s a reason Qantas’ lounge was nicknamed the ‘Qantas Pub’.

This may be feasible when you do it once or twice. And in the U.S. But don’t try it day after day, month after month, in Germany.

As I warned when writing about the Chinese case,

[M]any world carriers do have rules in their ticketing contracts forbidding the practice of purchasing tickets that you have no intention to fly — presumably changing the ticket 300 times and then refunding would be sufficiently indicative of that intention.

…this works just fine with refundable tickets, but doing it 300 times in a year likely isn’t replicable without negative consequences.

It turns out that precisely this has come to pass, as Wandering Aramean passes along.

[A] man in Germany bought a fully flexible business class ticket from Munich to Zurich for 745 euro but never actually intended to fly the ticket. Instead he just wanted to use Lufthansa’s Business Lounges in Munich. And so he did, 36 times over the course of a year. When the year came to a close he refunded the ticket and took his money back.

…[Lufthansa] invoiced the man for his 36 visits at a rate of 55 euro per visit. That’s a nearly 2000 euro bill.

A Court ruled in favor of Lufthansa, the passenger had a (very German) duty to actually fly.

It’s a good thing this individual wasn’t using the First Class Terminal or the bill would have been much higher!

Sadly, Lufthansa’s business lounges aren’t conceivably worth 55 euros in my view. But then US lounges frequently ask US$50 for guest passes and generally offer even less!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. He got caught. So far so good. But I think Lufthansa is turning the scam around now. Why?

    Lufthansa actually offers a ‘Purchase’ Lounge access for an additional guest above your guest limit.

    I’m not familiar with the details of this case but this fantasy value should be easily contested. Because 55 EUR is beyond what LH would charge for an extra guest at these Lounges. In reality Lufthansa charges 25 EUR per extra Guest which should be indicative of the value to be considered by the court. I think it would be worth to appeal this judgement (Revision in German – as long as permitted).

    See here:

    “(4) Der kaufbare Loungezugang (Voucher) ist begrenzt auf die Lufthansa Business Class Lounges in Deutschland, USA und Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

    Das Entgelt für die Business Class Lounge beträgt derzeit für Erwachsene 25 EUR in Europa und 35 USD in USA und 15 EUR in Europa und 20 USD für Kinder von 2 bis 12 Jahren. Für die Lufthansa Welcome Lounge in Frankfurt beträgt das Entgelt 50 EUR für Erwachsene und 35 EUR für Kinder von 2 bis 12 Jahren.”

  2. it might have been cheaper for him to just use the ticket since lufthansa probably wouldn’t have charged him for lounge access.

  3. You still don’t need a ticket to get past security in Oz. I don’t think they’ve changed the names on the Qantas Pubs just yet.

  4. What’s up with the new boarding area banner at the top of the android mobile website? Its so distracting?

  5. I disagree he used the ticket and got a refund for which he paid for the court over stepped its bounds when they ruled that he abused the rules when he legally followed the rules. LH could have put limits based on how many times you can refund a ticket but what he did is what the ticket and LH DESIGN THE TICKET FOR

  6. Good for Lufthansa! I’m growing increasingly weary of people and their immoral, unethical and just plain stupid behavior.

  7. @Sebastian: LH also has to pay airport taxes and security fees for every visit that are not refundable to the airline and are already paid by guests on the cheaper lounge pass. Plus this likely caused extra manual processing costs that LH is also eligible to be repaid.

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